During the Depression, a 10-year-old boy befriends a carnival stuntman and his lion cub and learns about the meaning of family, loyalty, love, and survival.
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About the Author
A self-described painter who writes, William Wharton is the pen name for the author of two memoirs—Houseboat on the Seine and Ever After—as well as eight novels—Birdy, Dad, A Midnight Clear, Scumbler, Pride, Tidings, Franky Furbo, and Last Lovers. His works have been acclaimed worldwide and have been translated into over fifteen languages.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
William Wharton has been one of my favorite writers since the day I picked up his first book, "Birdy," 20 years ago. He has continually written deceptively simple stories that are rich in detail and bone-deep in emotional impact. There¿s the flights of mental fancy in his first novel; the telling portrait of Alzheimer¿s in "Dad;" and the profound anti-war saga in "A Midnight Clear."In "Pride," published in 1985, Wharton (a pseudonym for an American artist who lives in Paris) delves deep into his own childhood memories of an event from the 1930s that left a lasting impression in his mind. In the prologue, he writes: "On October 6, 1938, in Wildwood, New Jersey, a lion, part of a `Wall of Death¿ motorcycle act, escaped from his cage on the boardwalk and killed a man¿There are some events that mark watersheds or cusps in life. The escape of that lion was one for me. It became a subconscious symbol, a foreboding, of all the violence and violation possible in life."From that scrap of a childhood nightmare, Wharton invents the story of 10-year-old Dickie Kettleson whose life eventually intersects that fateful moment on the midway when Tuffy, an aging lion escapes and runs amuck among the summer tourists. I guarantee you¿ll take the phone off the hook and let the kids feed themselves when you reach the page-turning portion of man-meets-uncaged-beast.Between all the violence and violation, however, there¿s plenty of tender sentiment. Amid the chaos and carnage, Wharton makes every single character (including the battered old Tuffy) important and multi-dimensional. These are people you come to know and care about deeply. I honestly did not want to turn the last page and leave these characters behind.The gripping sequence of Tuffy¿s escape doesn¿t come until the last third of "Pride." The rest of the novel depicts a compelling portrait of a middle-class American family struggling to survive the 1930s.Wharton takes his time building characters and creating the world of Depression-era Philadelphia so well that you could swear you could hear the laundry snapping in the breeze and the cry of the vegetable vendor. This is a world lovingly described and in Wharton¿s voice you can hear the sorrow and longing for a time in our national past that we can never recapture. Here, for instance, is the milkman making his rounds:"In winter he comes in the dark. When it¿s really cold the cream freezes in the bottle so it pushes right up, lifting the cardboard lid with the little tab like the lid on a Dixie cup. That frozen cream is almost ice cream, and it¿s delicious on cornflakes, shining slivers of ice tasting like cream."Such evocative paragraphs like this fill "Pride" and are enough to almost make me weep with nostalgia. The best part about it is, Wharton succeeds with a minimum of adverbs and adjectives. Filtered through the eyes of young Dickie, his sentences have a child-like simplicity in detail and outlook. Not since Hemingway have a writer¿s sentences been so unadorned."Pride" is that rarest of books¿one that I wanted to start again as soon as I finished. This might just be Wharton¿s finest work. He has a lot to be proud of with this novel.